News Articles

Southwestern receives warning from accreditation agency

Baptist Press file photo

FORT WORTH (BP) – A leading accreditation agency has issued a warning to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary due to concerns related to governance and financial responsibility. The warning was issued by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges following their June 15 meeting.

“Warning imposed by the SACSCOC Board of Trustees follows a determination of significant non-compliance with the Core Requirements or Standards of the Principles of Accreditation, the accreditation standards of SACSCOC; failure to make timely and significant progress toward correcting the deficiencies that led to the findings of non-compliance; or failure to comply with SACSCOC policies and procedures,” said SACSCOC in a statement.

A warning is the less critical sanction by the group, according to their website. The more critical sanction is probation.

SWBTS will be monitored and assessed again in June 2024. At that point, the seminary could have the warning lifted or face further action. The maximum time an institution can be in the warning phase is two years, according to SACSCOC.

“We look forward to working with SACSCOC in the coming months to demonstrate our commitment to fulfilling all its accreditation standards,” said SWBTS President David Dockery.

According to the SACSCOC, the seminary was placed on warning because they deemed the institution had failed to demonstrate compliance with:

  • Core Requirement 4.1 (Governing board characteristics), 
  • Core Requirement 13.1 (Financial resources), and 
  • Standard 13.3 (Financial responsibility) of the Principles of Accreditation. These standards expect an institution to (1) have a governing board of at least five members that (a) is the legal body with specific authority over the institution; (b) exercises fiduciary oversight of the institution; (c) ensures that both the presiding officer of the board and a majority of other voting members of the board are free of any contractual, employment, personal, or familial financial interest in the institution; (d) is not controlled by a minority of board members or by organizations or institutions separate from it; and (e) is not presided over by the chief executive officer of the institution; (2) have sound financial resources and a demonstrated, stable financial base to support the mission of the institution and the scope of its programs and services; and (3) manage its financial resources in a responsible manner.

Responding to the claims, Dockery said, “The current administration and board of trustees, with support from the faculty and staff, will continue to work diligently to aggressively reduce institutional spending in the current budget year as well as in the forthcoming 2023-24 budget year, which includes significant reduction in personnel costs, while prioritizing the educational mission of the seminary.”

In Oct. 2022, Dockery told SWBTS trustees that financial challenges must be addressed. That led to a special task force reviewing the seminary’s finances. Later that month the seminary announced layoffs.

In March, the seminary announced the sale of the 15-acre Carroll Park property to the city of Fort Worth for $11 million.

During the spring 2023 Trustees’ Meeting, then-chairman Danny Roberts reported the results of the task force’s work. 

“The findings demonstrated a need for greater accountability and oversight for the institution. As a result, new financial guardrails will be implemented to provide for greater accountability to the trustees in order to prevent similar decision making in the future,” he said.

Trustees met again in a special-called meeting in late May to address further financial concerns.

Following that meeting, the seminary released audited financials for SWBTS from 2002-2022 as well as a financial overview for that time period.

The statement also detailed expenditures made by former President Adam Greenway that “engaged in a pattern of spending that … did not reflect proper stewardship of seminary resources” and was “without deference to financial controls and seminary financial policies.”

In today’s statement to Baptist Press, Dockery said, “We will continue to focus on budgetary and organizational restructuring in the coming academic year, prioritizing institutional stewardship to demonstrate the financial soundness of the seminary,” Dockery said.

    About the Author

  • Brandon Porter

    Brandon Porter serves as Associate Vice President for Convention News at the SBC Executive Committee

    Read All by Brandon Porter ›